The Beast of Cannock Chase is back - and this time he’s even made it on radio.
Discovery of a large paw print on Cannock Chase was reported on Smooth Radio last week. It follows a number of sightings of the elusive creature.
In fact, eyewitness accounts date back to the ‘70s, shortly after a change in legislation about keeping dangerous animals led to exotic pets being released into the British countryside.
Can it still be possible that after all this time the beast has survived and is still thriving in our neck of the woods?
Last week’s paw prints are by no means the first mystery tracks. But are large dogs responsible?
The paw prints are easy to side-step; the mutilated deer carcasses, however, are not.
Specialists on the subject are certain that black panthers are out there.
Neil Arnold, of Kent Big Cat Research, said: “It’s time the public, especially sceptics, realised that large exotic animals are nothing unusual in our countryside any more - and the only mystery is that they’ve become a mystery.”
Big cat expert Martin Rainer said: “Maybe they are not at the heart of the Chase, but possibly around the fringes which do not receive as much human traffic.”
The most common sightings are around Katyn Memorial and The German War Cemetery, but the beast has been seen as far afield as Chasetown and Heath Hayes.
As recently as July of this year Mrs V Golder wrote to us reporting that a friend saw the animal twice skulking in Union Street, Chasetown, at around 8am.
She also told of damage caused by the animal in her garden, which included a broken fence and solar light.
Further evidence from Nick Brown suggested there IS a big cat roaming the Chase. In May, 2008, he was cycling with friends when he spotted the remains of a deer, stripped to the bone.
Three weeks before, Julie Mason also spotted a carcass picked clean near Spring Slade Lodge. She said: “I do think something is out there - I just don’t know what.”
The most promising account came when a fairly large group of people saw something peculiar during their lunch break late in August, 2005, in woodlands near Cannock Chase Enterprise Centre.
Anthony Cooper, then aged 42, saw a large black figure in the woods only metres away.
“It was acting as if it couldn’t even see me. It just strolled past at a distance of about ten feet,” he said.
The beast’s true species is not known for sure. It could be either a black jaguar or black leopard, both more commonly known as black panthers.
These are the most adaptable and could easily adjust to our climate and habitat.
One thing is known for sure about the beast: whatever variations of cat it may be, it would be very reclusive and prefer to hunt during dawn and dusk.
However, recent sightings have placed the panther close to residential areas and even industrial units near Hemlock Way.
Expert Neil Arnold added: “These cats are not a threat to humans as there is so much prey out there in the wild. But such animals must be taken seriously.”
The possibility that there is more than one big cat doesn’t seem all that far fetched.
If sightings are to be believed, a single black panther has been roaming our woods for over 30 years.
It’s plausible for there to be several black panthers breeding throughout the Chase and other nearby areas, supported by the fact that these sightings have spread from Stafford to Chasetown.
The beast is not unique to Cannock. There have been sightings all over Britain of these skulking creatures, ranging from West Wales to Lancashire. The most common places to see a big cat are Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.
There are several theories about the origins of black panthers. Private owners have released pets: there have been 23 cases of owners admitting dumping big cats in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s.
Some may have escaped from private collections, zoos and even safari parks.
There have been a few cases of big cats such as lynx being captured in Britain, although no black panthers have been captured.
Another interesting article this one from back on 20-08-2009, seems the sightings have been happening for a very long time.